Rays 5, Astros 2: Offense and bullpen make a strong Bedard start count

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A total team effort.

On the very first pitch of the game, Dexter Fowler jumped on an Erik Bedard 84 mph fastball elevated over the heart of the plate. Think about that. An 84 mph fastball up in the zone.

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via www.brooksbaseball.net

It is impossible to imagine a worst pitch than this one. Fowler probably thought he was still taking batting practice. Bedard earned that home run.

Two batters later he issued a walk, and you could have been forgiven for thinking this was going to be one of those long, sad Bedard days (as opposed to a long, happy Bedard day). You would have been wrong. The Astros tagged another run on in the third inning when Jonathan Villar snuck a ground ball down the third base line for a double, and then stole third (he was originally called out, but replay showed that Longoria missed the tag) before being singled home, but that was all they would get.

Bedard mixed his pitches like the wily veteran he is, being especially brave with the changeup inside to opposite-handed hitters (an unusual pitch outside of the Rays organization). In total, his 108 pitches took him through five and a third innings, in which he gave up seven hits, one walk, and one hit-by-pitch. He struck out eight Astros.

The Rays offense had also gotten on the board in the first inning. With one out, Ben Zobrist worked a full count and then turned it into a walk. Brandon Guyer then kept his front foot in place and took a breaking ball of his toe to move Zobrist to second. A line drive base hit by Evan Longoria tied the game.

When Bedard got into trouble with back-to-back singles in the sixth inning, Maddon swapped him for Juan Carlos Oviedo and turned the game over to the bullpen. They were excellent. Oviedo, Grant Balfour, Jake McGee, and Joel Peralta covered the last 4.2 innings and gave up only two walks and no hits, while striking out five Astros.

Oviedo's two outs "earned" him the win, because the Rays offense came alive in the bottom of the sixth. Zobrist lead off by working a walk in an eight-pitch at bat. Guyer then reached for a pitch down and away and bunted it perfectly down the third base line, beating it out for a single. Longoria then inside-outed a sinker into right field to load the bases. Yunel Escobar also took a sinker the other way, chopping down the line and just out of the reach of the first-baseman. What might have been a double play gave the Rays the lead. Sean Rodriguez sacrificed in another run when the Astros failed to turn another possible double play, bringing the score to 3-1.

Rodriguez would sac in one more run in the eighth inning, but Bradley gave the ball away cheaply in the middle, and Cameron inexplicably lost his mark in the last 15 seconds of play.

Some other notes:

  • In the third inning, two batters after Villar had stolen third base, BA said that there had been no stolen base attempts with Bedard pitching this season. Whoops. #MediaCriticism
  • In the third inning, Desmond Jennings found himself on third base with two outs after being hit by a pitch and advancing on a Ben Zobrist double. As the catcher tossed the ball back to the pitcher, Jennings broke for home. Dallas Keuchel saw it immediately, and broke to the plate to receive the throw and fire it back home. Jennings was called out and Maddon immediately challenged. The overhead shot seemed to show that DJ got his hand in there safely. There was another shot, however, that showed that the tag touched Jennings's wrist. You couldn't perceive that initial tag in the overhead shot, but you can deduce a point before which it happened. Close play, but the refs got it right.
  • Bedard had a nervy inning in the fifth. With a man on first, Altuve hit a sinking liner to center field that Jennings tracked well coming forward and to his right to make a sliding grab. For the next batter and the final out, George Springer crushed a fly ball high to left that gave Brandon Guyer time to set up at the wall, where he made a leaping grab.
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